“I didn't get time to spend with my daughter; all my time and energies were devoted to him”

The former Telecom Minister, A. Raja's defence proceedings commenced here on Thursday amid allegations of threat to a prime witness who was, in turn, subjected to intense cross-examination on matters ranging from affordability of his rent to accusations of owning benami property by taking “undue advantage” of his former employer's influence.

“You had a benami Tata Motors agency in Tiruchirapalli,” said counsel Sushil Kumar. To this, Aseervatham Achary, Mr. Raja's former Additional Private Secretary, firmly replied: “I deny”.

Mr. Kumar was referring to the Niira Radia tapes and Mr. Achary's conversations with the former corporate lobbyist. “Why does she say she got a call from Tata Motors Chennai people?” counsel queried, before directing his accusation at the witness and asking whether he had taken “undue advantage of Mr. Raja's name and procured a Tata Motors agency.”

The tapes had recorded Ms. Radia asking Mr. Achary about his political aspirations. “In July 2008 itself, I had expressed my ambition of joining politics to Mr. Raja. Because of this, there was a lot of discussion in Tamil Nadu and Delhi because nobody expects a Minister's PA to become a politician,” said Mr. Achary and added “The Minister said that politics is not an easy field.”

Asked about his reaction to this advice, Mr. Achary said: “I gave [the] highest regard to Mr. Raja and decided not to enter politics.”

He was also asked to explain his personal differences with the former Minister that were listed in a CBI report. “I was not getting time to spend with my daughter; all my time, energy and everything were given to Mr. Raja,” Mr. Achary said and added he had decided to leave Mr. Raja in 2005 itself but the then Minister was not willing to let him go.

Younger brother status

“Again and again in 2006, whenever he was in a good mood I would ask him ‘Sir, let me go' but he would say ‘You are like my younger brother, stay with me, stay with me'.”

Mr. Achary said that when Mr. Raja met with an accident, he took care of him by taking him to hospital, thereby earning the “younger brother” status.

When defence asked how he could afford to pay a rent of Rs. 20,000 when his net salary was just around Rs. 40,000, Mr. Achary said his wife was also working.

Defence also compared the career graphs of Mr. Achary and Raja, pointing out that it was on the personal recommendation of a relative that the former Minister employed him.

To a question, asked on Wednesday, whether he knew of any disproportionate assets enquiry pending against him in the Railways, Mr. Achary said: “There is a complaint made on the forged letterhead of Mr. Rajen Gohain, an MP from Assam. He has confirmed it is forged.”

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